Living Columns & Blogs

A thank you to teachers, whose impact stays with us late into our lives

North Carolina teachers recently have been throwing their weight around, asking for better pay, working conditions and more respect and appreciation in general.

Few professionals impact people’s lives as much as teachers do, especially during the early years of our development. Each of you can recall teachers who left an indelible mark on your life and memory.

My wife, a retired public school and university teacher, still receives telephone calls or notes from students whom she taught decades ago. They thank her for opening doors to great literature, teaching them how to convey their mental creativity to the written page, or, yes, tackling those dreaded rules of grammar, right down to the difference between the verbs “lie” and “lay.”

Good teachers’ texts extend well beyond text books. Teachers of younger students especially teach character, courage, confidence, and yes, cursive.

We all have had favorite teachers. A friend, Superior Court Judge John Smith recently described one of his. He was in ninth grade in Moore County when his teacher, Mrs. W.E. Gladstone, entered him in a countywide speech contest to be held at Southern Pines High School.

John worked with the principal on a speech based on Patrick Henry’s immortal oration that included, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”

“But as I walked on stage and looked out at the huge assembly, my mind went blank,” John said. “My mind went totally blank. There was nothing there. I knew it was over.”

But thanks to Mrs. Gladstone, it wasn’t over. She told John to sit in a chair. She then tackled the judges and pleaded for another chance for John.

“Let him be disqualified,” she said. “But If you do not let him get out there and make that speech, he will never speak before an audience again.”

The judges relented. John made the speech.

“I saw her after she retired,” John said. “She was volunteering at Moore Memorial Hospital in Southern Pines. I thanked her. But even then I did not fully appreciate what she had done for me. I know what success I’ve had is due to her. But to her, it was just what teachers do.”

Crowded field of candidates

With 20-plus Democrats vying to be president of the United States, the party is a bit like the old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.

She gave them some broth without any bread and whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed.

Politics is more complicated. Some of you may say the more the merrier regarding the large field of candidates.

But I wonder. Shouldn’t Democrats worry that supporters of candidates rejected in the Democratic primaries may stay home on general election day? That would seem to work toward President Trump’s re-election.

Swear words

Speaking of cussing, reader Jim Richmond points out that UNC basketball coach Roy Williams uses “dadgummit!” a lot and may be the last person who does.

In ‘‘Gone With the Wind,” Rhett shocked Scarlett when he told her, “Frankly, my dear. I don’t give a damn!’“ In movies, swear words don’t pack the punch they used to because they’re used so much,” Jim noted.

“Television has brought cussing into the living room, bedroom, kitchen and den. I’ve heard words coming from my TV that would embarrass a drill sergeant. So the Donald is being modern when he cusses in public. Church may be the last refuge for people offended by foul language.”

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